AMMAN — Jordan announced on Tuesday that it has declined to renew a mining agreement with energy giant AREVA, prematurely ending the French firm’s four-year quest to produce commercially viable uranium in the country.

According to the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), Amman moved to reject an extension of a mining licence for the AREVA-backed Jordanian French Uranium Mining Company due to “contractual matters” regarding exploration milestones.

The decision, taken in late September, comes a few short months after the French firm confirmed the discovery of 20,000 metric tonnes of uranium in central Jordan — a finding that raised hopes of the viability of a uranium mining industry in Jordan. 

A second analysis of surface layers later carried out by Australian energy audit Coffey upped uranium concentration projections in the central region to over 100 parts per million — a finding disputed by AREVA and energy officials claim became a source of dispute between the firm and Amman.

During the firm’s four-year presence, AREVA officials acknowledged the potential challenges of harvesting Jordanian uranium deposits, which despite being close to surface level are found “intermittently” and at lower-than-standard commercially viable grades. 

Meanwhile, the JAEC pledged to move ahead with uranium exploration activities, with its commercial arm Jordan Energy Resources Inc. to prepare a bankable feasibility study for establishing a uranium mine in the central region. 

“We have had international auditors survey the findings in the central region and we remain very positive over the potential reserves in the central region,” JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan told The Jordan Times.

As part of its efforts to pursue a Jordanian uranium mining industry, the JAEC says it aims to develop a specialised process for extracting Jordanian uranium ore and to develop a “pilot plant” in preparation of its economic feasibility study. 

Industry experts say AREVA’s departure marks a setback to Jordan’s uranium mining aspirations, which were to help fuel up to four planned 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors to wean the country off energy imports.